The 2017 cross country season began with a unique challenge, when the team was involved in a car accident in August.
With this challenge, head coach Chip Wilson said he was thankful for the leadership this senior class provided.
“This senior class has been challenged and they have seen the positives and negatives that come with collegiate athletics,” Wilson said.
The senior class has provided leadership and encouragement all season long, he said.
“The maturity I have seen in this group is tremendous. They have been terrific leaders on and off the course,” Wilson said.
The 2017 senior class includes Darian Pacula, Kayla Davies, Katie Driggs, Alexis Kandel, Rebekah Mullins and Caroline Phillips.
Darian Pacula is the only senior on the men’s team this year. Pacula, a mechanical engineering major, posted a career best of 26:53.12 at the 2016 Jenna Strong Fall Classic.
Pacula said he has especially enjoyed being part of something with people who showed the same interest in running.
“It was an opportunity for different people to come together with a similar interest,” Pacula said.
Pacula will look back on his time running for the Cougars and remember the friendships and the opportunity to compete at a higher level.
“I enjoyed the team aspect and being able to compete in collegiate cross country,” Pacula said.
Kayla Davies, an accounting and finance major, also recorded her best time (22:56.12) at the 2016 Jenna Strong Fall Classic.
Davies said her favorite parts of cross country were meeting some of her best friends through running, and running for Christ.
“Running for MVNU has provided me a support system that encourages one another to reflect Christ in all we do,” Davies said.
Davies will remember her freshman cross country camp as being her favorite.
“It was a blast getting to know my teammates” through canoe trips, runs, sand volleyball games and dance parties.
Katie Driggs, a Spanish education major, has a career best time of 19:34.40 from the 2016 Crossroads League Championships.
Driggs said she has appreciated the family aspect of the cross country program.
“It means being part of another family that supports you and journeys along with you when you’re away from home and when things are hard,” Driggs said.
Her favorite memory is the feelings she gets when everyone returns from summer break.
“We all meet for dinner after move-in and you can just hear the excitement of getting to catch up with everyone and meeting new teammates,” Driggs said.
Alexis Kandel will graduate with a financial planning major. Kandel’s fastest collegiate time was 20:09.18 at the Calvin Invitational in 2015.
Kandel said the relationships she made through cross country stand out the most.
“I get to build relationships with a group of people and work with them towards a common goal,” Kandel said.
Her favorite memories involve the silly things that happen on the bus to meets — like “that time Darian fell trying to put his bag above the seats on the bus,” Kandel said.
Rebekah Mullins is a psychology and exercise studies double major whose best time is 18:58.60 at the 2016 Crossroads League Championships.
Mullins said MVNU cross country is about so much more than just running.
“The same group of people that you run with also support and love you with any trial you go through both on and off the course,” Mullins said.
Mullins also enjoys the cross country camps the team has before the season starts.
“Every year we go somewhere off campus and it’s a chance to get to know our new teammates better and to catch up with old teammates,” Mullins said.
Caroline Phillips will graduate with an environmental biology major.
A key thing for Philips was being part of a team that works together.
“It means you are a part of a group of people that work together for the same goal,” Phillips said.
Her favorite memory was a team adventure to a Columbus Crew game during preseason camp.
“It was a lot of fun and a great bonding experience,” Philips said.